Reverence in Action: Harmony in competition and beauty

Husain Abdullah
Husain Abdullah of the Kansas City Chiefs goes to the ground in prayer after a touchdown. Image via ABC News.

Father, All-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.

It is a lofty demand – to discern the work of God in the most mundane and spectacular aspects of our life. Seeking to find God in all things is a seemingly idyllic concept that may not have much practicality beyond the church pew. Inextricably connected with this issue is the concept of reverence, the awe-inspiring acknowledgment of something so indescribably beautiful and grand that it forces one to remain fully prostrate in its presence. To be reverent towards oneself and others reminds us that we are absolutely filled with immense beauty and dignity and it is our duty to preserve and grow in this.

Huge cathedrals can bring this sense of reverence to us. Even certain relationships or situations can remind us of how awesome things are in the world. But is it relevant in sports? Can – or should – one always be reverent toward the interactions we experience in our team environment? It is pretty hard to find immense beauty at a 5 AM lift that is graciously followed by a two-hour practice and a full day of classes. Additionally, I struggle to see everlasting dignity in the face of a teammate whom I would rather punch than help up to his feet after fighting for a loose ball.

Playing sports at a high level definitively creates and extracts feelings of intense competitiveness, the extent to which often drives people to act and think in ways they would never do in other circumstances. This can be dangerous of course but it is also exhilarating. To be able to cultivate skills and use them in such an effective way is a sometimes transcendent experience that drives us to continue to just get better and better.

But an ultimate issue remains: in the midst of the most heated competition can one remain conscious of the beauty of God and seek to actually express it through the unique acting out of the game? This ‘Reverence in Action’ is a tremendous challenge that requires a transformation in perception, a deep level of deliberate and continual discernment of what playing the game means and how it could fit into a grand scheme.

Even though continual spiritual expression can seem out of place in the hustle and bustle of the everyday world, the practicality of it could blossom in the context of something as dynamic as sport. It would need to be quite a balancing act, though. It might not be the best idea to ask God to make us as meek as a lamb when you walk into the lion’s den of competition every day for practice. In this instance, one could lose an edge in playing or even be taken advantage of as opponents exploit what they see as apparent weakness.

As a result, a very strong balance must be struck between ultra-competitiveness and preservation of the immense dignity of the world. Reverence calls for tremendous respect and acknowledgement of the dignity of oneself, others, and even physical space and it isn’t just possible in athletics, it is perfectly open to it.

To be achieved, it just needs to be rooted in a vision, a deliberate choice to see, feel, and grow the beauty of God in the context of all team interactions. This could create a rich environment of collective satisfaction that would remain resilient through the best and most difficult of times. Flowing from this established Reverence in Action could be a dynamically growing team culture whose influence would be so great that it would prompt others to actually revere and generate the exact thing for themselves and others.

Not a bad cycle to establish. We just need to the strength to allow God to help us start the beautiful process.

About Eric Kindler, M.S. // Coordinator, Institute Programming

Eric is an alumnus of Saint Joseph’s University, earning his bachelor’s in Theology and currently on the verge of completing his master’s in Education. While attending SJU he was a member of the men’s basketball team and served as the main student organizer for the Developing Everyday Champions Program. Playing basketball and sports in general while studying the faith truly enabled Eric to see the immense value within each medium, and searching means by which the two can be joined has become an endeavor of great importance and worth in his life.

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